Designing a reusable future to reduce CO₂
At the start of our journey to design a zero waste grocery system, it was of vital importance to us that reducing plastic waste did not come at the expense of increasing other forms of pollution or waste. To ensure this, we undertook in-depth Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) work in partnership with environmental analysts.
The LCA was a comparison between a standard e-commerce delivery where ambient goods were delivered in single use packaging and single use cardboard boxes, to a closed loop delivery where some products were delivered in reusable packaging and all goods were delivered in reusable boxes that are returned.
This research was carried out in 2 segments - firstly to understand the impact of reusable delivery boxes versus single use cardboard and secondly the impact of delivering foodstuffs in reusable pots as opposed to single use plastic films. The resulting analysis confirmed significant savings from moving to a closed loop system, 38.93kg of CO₂e by using a reusable box and 14.49kg CO2e moving to reusable product containers.
After prototyping the closed loop service, a second LCA was completed in partnership with ReLondon’s business transformation programme to calculate the CO₂ reduction of the service. The numbers closely aligned with the earlier analysis - with a CO₂ reduction per delivery box (1.4 boxes with 4 pots) of 80kg after 4 years/48 uses. Finally, ReLondon suggested some changes to the service that would further reduce the carbon emissions created by the service. With these improvements to the service the 4 year carbon reduction per box will increase to 125kg.
Based on these findings and projected growth plans Good Club will save 230,000 metric tonnes of CO₂ and 8,000 metric tonnes of single use plastic waste by 2029.
The detail of the calculations
For full transparency of the process we undertook, here are the assumptions and outputs we reached as part of our LCA.
Returnable box assumptions
- A BAU delivery in cardboard would use 1.8 boxes versus 1.4 multiple use/plastic boxes
- Vehicle journeys from depot to customer were not considered as necessary regardless of box used and deemed to be unreliable as couriers are making other deliveries en route
- BAU journey - wholesaler to customer home and then disposed of using DEFRA UK recycling rates
- Returnable box journey - wholesaler to customer then back to customer, - 100% recycle rates as EoL controlled
- 48 uses per box
Reusable pot assumptions
- BAU packaging considered as plastic film weighing 7g
- Glass, stainless steel and plastic reusable pots considered as alternatives
- Cleaning emissions calculated but not considered as is negligible
- Transport to cleaning included
- Assumed packing would take place at an external packing house
- Reverse logistics not included for similar reasons to previous analysis - since courier is already delivering it was not possible to attribute carbon
- Data provided is for plastic reusable pots as all others showed an increase in CO₂ due to weight (glass) or distance to travel from manufacturer (stainless steel)
- 24 uses per pot
The analysis completed by Advance London used the actual system of returns to calculate the carbon impact of the service as is, as well as recommending how to improve the service.
Assumptions / current set up
- Off the shelf reusable boxes and PP pots used
- Boxes are cleaned on site but PP pots are cleaned externally
- Outbound and reverse logistic distances considered
- 4 reusable pots delivered per order- replacing single use films
- 2 single use cardboard boxes used per delivery versus 1.4 reusable plastic boxes
- Boxes are reused 48 times
- Pots are reused 24 times
- Divider used 3 times